Walking through a museum, you’ll likely consume most artworks using your eyes. Enjoying the output of olfactory artist Maki Ueda, who uses scent as her primary medium, however, requires your nose—and sometimes takes place in spaces with no visual stimulation whatsoever. Ueda, who is based in Okinawa and Tokyo, intentionally minimizes the influence of other senses as a way of helping viewers pay more attention to the remarkable act of smelling, and its deep connections with movement and space.
Ueda’s interest in scent developed while she was living in the Netherlands, where, since 2009, she has taught courses on olfactory art at the ArtScience Interfaculty of The Royal Academy of Art and the Royal Conservatoire. “I had to communicate in more or less nonverbal ways with others, because I didn’t know any language there,” she says. This period in her life also included the birth of her child, who, she noticed, instinctively used his sense of smell to detect breast milk.
These experiences inspired Ueda to explore fragrance in her art, beginning with small, experimental works centered around scent extraction and preservation. They included “Aromascape of Singapore” (2011), a workshop and corresponding exhibition that unpacked the distinct olfactory landscape of the country and presented its components as individual smells as emotion- and imagination-provoking perfumes. Soon, her practice expanded into scent deconstruction and reconstruction, as with “Olfactoscape Ver. 3” (2019), which broke down the smell of a rose into its individual aroma-chemical parts and dispersed them around an empty tent for visitors to explore with their noses; and around scent-driven communication, apparent in “Kyoto Love Story” (2015), a multisensory installation inspired by The Tale of Genji, a seminal piece of Japanese literature.
Among Ueda’s most compelling bodies of work is her “Olfactory Labyrinths,” an ongoing series of mazelike installations, first introduced in 2013, that create fields of scents that people physically move through. They range from a literal maze, navigated by following the trail of a specific smell, to a room filled with a grid of small bottles hanging from the ceiling that visitors are invited to sniff, seeking out the source of the vessels that hold the delicate aroma of sakura blossoms. “These projects invite viewers to observe how they perceive through smell,” Ueda says, “and how their sense of smell works, and how their recognition of smell works.”
Ueda’s most recent efforts have leaned into a new direction: using scent to address current and political events. Last year at Germany’s Städtische Galerie Bremen, she presented the exhibition “Viral Parfum,” for which she developed a series of fragrances, each based on Covid-19 and its mutations, that visitors could spray anywhere in the room. Occasionally the lights would dim, and black lights would switch on, illuminating the sprayed scents on the walls and helping visitors visualize how a virus spreads in an environment. Her installation “Smells for the Paris Agreement” (2020) explored whether certain scents can make a person’s body feel warmer or cooler, and how they might be used to help humans gain resilience in the midst of extreme temperatures. (Ueda consulted Jas Brooks, a Ph.D. student in the department of computer science at the University of Chicago, while developing the project.) It invited visitors to take in a group of aromatic substances—including menthol, thymol, black pepper, and red chili extract—and reflect on the warming or cooling physical sensations they felt.
Ultimately, Ueda hopes that her works create neutral spaces where viewers can zero in on their sense of smell. “Smell is a medium that is different from other senses,” she says. “Objective opinions are less important and subjective opinions are respected. Because our sense of smell is built in more or less the same way, we can find a common language there.”
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Tucked between a seafood market and a dumpling shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a small storefront showcases a suite of exGlade: To Touch Painting” (through April 30), an exhibition of scented paintings by Brazilian artist Luiza Gottschalk, currently on view at the Olfactory Art Keller.
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In 2017, Carolina Prioglio and Adrien de Bontin took over management of a farm in Burgundy that’s nestled in the rollingMaison/Made, which they launched in 2019. It’s one of the first beauty brands to achieve Biodynamic certification, an accolade awar
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Michael Hingson was in his office at the data-protection agency Quantum on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One when hethud of the first airplane hitting the building, 15 floors above. Hingson, who has been blind since birth due to an eye diso
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Tasked with transitioning electric vehicles from niche to the norm, automotive designers are confronted with a singular vroom of an engine accelerating—which details will drivers long for if left out in future models?
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The two-year-old experimental radio website Poolsuite deftly mixes AOL-era computer graphics with disco-driven beats, channeling the cool optimism of the 1980s. Now, just inVacation, a new line of sun-care products and a corresponding perfume.
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When the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH tapped creative director Jonathan Anderson to helm Loewe in 2013, it charBotanical Rainbow, released in March, that includes myriad botanically inspired perfumes, bottled in a kaleidoscope of colors.
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If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious process of perfume-making, you’ll delight in watching Nose: The Most Secret Job in the World, now streaming on Apple TV, following last year’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the hour-long documentary, nez, or nose—perfume industry parlance for an expert perfumer-creator with a finely attuned sense of smell—and his sensoria
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The name Bernard may conjure different connotations for different folks—say, Senator Sanders, your favorite breed of mouBernard is the name of his fragrance brand, which recently debuted with a collection of hand-poured candles. “This is a scent mMeli, the Greek word for honey, is warm and sweet, with base notes of orris root and leather; Eira takes inspiration from Sc
Sweaty running clothes. The litter box. That odd funk emanating from the back of the fridge. Unpleasant scents can transMoso Natural, a line of odor-eliminating linen bags filled with an unexpected ingredient: bamboo. The California-based brand is name
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From its over-reliance on packaging to its use of harmful chemicals, the beauty industry is long overdue for a rethink o
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The poster child for the gray-skyed Pacific Northwest, Portland is perhaps America’s most book-loving city. Reading is a
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Covering everything from a detective story by Edgar Allan Poe to the role that scent plays in racism, the new book The Smell of Risk: Olfactory Aesthetics and Atmospheric Disparities (NYU Press) investigates how, over the past 200 years, writers, artists, and activists have used smell in their work to
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Headquartered in Grenoble, a city in southeastern France, the six-year-old start-up Aryballe has a singular, if not entirely un-straightforward, goal: to capture, analyze, and digitally document smells. This work
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Six decades ago, researchers at 3M and the NCR Corporation were looking for a more effective way of trapping ink inside functioned with scented oils that, when scratched, burst open, emitting their distinctive smells. The technique has since been used on stickers, stamps, and perfume-peddling magazine inserts. John Waters incorporated it into his 1981 film Polyester, when he distributed large cards that featured ten circular patches, laced with scents such as skunk and old shoes, forwine and whiskey, helps readers understand flavor through the scents of its aromatic pages, while co-authors Seth Matlins and Eve EpsteiThe Scratch and Sniff Book of Weed. Other titles employ the strategy in more subtle ways. Scent in Context, a deep dive into the work of Belgian olfactory artist Peter De Cupere, disperses hidden scratch-and-sniff odors among a journal from the California publisher Knock Knock that pairs scented stickers with writing prompts—a clever way to stimulate users’ emotions, creativity, and memory.
Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, founder of Wild Bloom Floral in Seattle, and the head judge of Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight—essentially, the fantastical floral equivalent of The Great British Baking Show—knows the power of an impactful blossom. Here, he tells us why a fabulous arrangement activates all the senses, and is
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“Perfume has a wonderful ability to immerse people directly inside of a world,” says David Moltz, the self-taught perfum To be parked on various blocks throughout New York City, with on-the-fly location updates posted to the brand’s social mD.S. & Durga Fume Truck will soon hit the streets. In a city known for its not-so-glamorous sidewalk odors, this is one experiment we’re eager
Smell is a highly individualized sense: The same odor or olfactory stimulus can trigger common, though not identical, reA recent study published in the science journal Nature suggests that our diverse experiences with scent have to do with how they are encoded in the brain. “All of us share a told The Harvard Gazette. “You and I both think lemon and lime smell similar and agree that they smell different from pizza, but until now, we d
Our sense of smell can cast mysteriously large impressions onto our memories—and it’s all by nature’s design. The olfactAccording to Harvard biology professor Venkatesh Murthy, olfactory signals even color other senses, notably taste. Molecules from food “make their way back retro-nasally to yo
“Our sense of smell is entirely shaped by cultural phenomena arising as a result of specific historical processes,” RobeSmells: A Cultural History of Odors in Early Modern Times (Polity). The French historian and professor—who has previously written books on subjects including the devil, violence
The saying “like a fine wine” is often used to describe something that improves with age. But, as any sommelier will telterroir, and how the wine has been stored and fermented—much of which sommeliers are trained to discern largely by scent, beforsaid on a recent episode of At a Distance, it all comes down to personal preference. “I think wine sometimes gets interlaced into geekdom, which is cool,” he told
Early August marks the start of planting season for celery. Picked in fall and early winter, it makes for a sweet and crcleansing benefits, or an easy snack on its own—though the scent of celery, curiously, is always much stronger than its taste. As a scent,
What does our sense of smell have to do with philosophy? In her new book, Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard University Press), cognitive scientist and sense historian Ann-Sophie Barwich delves into the perceptual dimen
What do gun powder, seared steak, raspberries, and rum have in common? Hint: It’s not what’s for dinner. According to th
Short of a vaccine, masks and social distancing measures are here to stay, for the foreseeable future, anyway—and your nmicrobiological auras” were once normally exposed to, in actively out-and-about, pre-pandemic times. Our bodies, hosts to a community of micr
Holiday weekend or not, summertime means grilling time. A waft of burning hickory or charcoal from a smoky barbecue grilonce explained to The Independent, “Most of the flavor of smoke is smell.” Because scent is processed through the limbic system, the sensation also persi
With the summer season come longer days, more time spent outdoors under the sun—and, unfortunately, all of the attendant the arrival of murder hornets to fear, of course (as if this year hadn’t offered enough unwelcome surprises), and store-bought repellants are often l
Rose expert Peter Kukielski, the author of Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease-Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses and former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, tells us about the rose-bloom
April showers bring May flowers, as the age-old saying goes—and with both comes the scent of freshly dampened soil that New Atlas, geosmin is produced by certain bacteria from the genus Streptomyces as a way to attract a specific arthropod, called a springtail, which helps spread its spores. Researchers suggest that ta hand soap and a hand-sanitizer spray (the candle option, sadly, is sold out, at least for the moment), offers a close-to-the-real-thing alternative in a bot
Breu resin, a shiny, white sap extracted from the almécega tree found in the Amazon rain forests, as well as from various reBreuzinho is used to enhance focus and attain peace of mind, and is scientifically shown to have various medicinal properties as breu incense from the Brooklyn-based company Incausa, in stick form, coated in resin and sprinkled with chips of palo santo; as well as in its more natural, raw form, as a hunk of solid oleoresin from Costa Brazil, fashion designer Francisco Costa’s beauty brand, which pairs it with a ceramic tray. To enjoy the ar